Caring for Algeria(ns): Care work, the EMSI, and colonisation in the Algerian War of Independence as told by woman care workers (1954-1962)


  • Quincy Mackay Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


This essay explores the role of a little-studied institution, the Équipes médico-sociales itinérantes (Mobile Medico-Social Teams, EMSI), in the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962). Run by the French army in their programme of pacification, the EMSI sent French and France-aligned women into rural villages across the Algerian territory, with the aim of making closer contact with these rural populations through medical aid and social engagement. Their aims were steeped in the colonial, proselytising language of the civilising mission, while the women carrying out the work in the field had their own nuanced and diverse motivations for engaging in this humanitarian work. Drawing on these women’s own voices, this study examines the EMSI from the bottom up, giving a new perspective on care work and humanitarian engagement in colonial contexts.